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Badge, Boot, Button: The Story of Australian Uniforms

Ah, the Uniform is indeed a thing of status, delineation, respect, pride and so much more and has over the many centuries, in one shape or another become a symbol of so very much; pride in your social status, your country, your sport, your workplace or your leisure.  It is not until you see it laid out in all its glory that you begin to understand the cultural effect it has had on so much of our society that is taken for granted.

Craig Wilcox takes a walk through the pages of history looking back to the colour and pomp of the past, the elegance and ritual of the present and the need still to be able to make a statement in a modern world, in some ways not so very far removed from that which has gone before.

But where or when did it begin to become a mandatory manner of dressing rather than a style which represented the person, as in standards of dress such as Court dress which was definitive of your status in society, your class, and as the years followed on became a symbol to the British people of power, as well as law and order law and order.

As a young, fledgling country the uniform arrived on the shores of Australia with the first fleet, the Commander of the vessel in his resplendent regalia must have seemed truly amazing to the indigenous peoples looking on at this strange, bird like object, with people dressed in splendid array.

Soldiers in Red Coats came to be feared and were a symbol of a law being upheld in this new land. Their regalia were also responsible for them being very easy to spot in the drab colours of the Australian bush and led to many a soldier being ambushed or killed.

This was soon to change with advent of the Boer War and then the First World War where the khaki of the Australian servicemen was to become familiar to the men who serve and their families, and is still so today.

Cricketers too played their role with the first Australian Cricket team to play England in England having a uniform of sorts, with distinctive caps to help in identify each of the Indigenous players. The Baggy Green came into being for the infamous Bodyline Series in 1932-33 as the first signs of the Coming of Age of Australia, as she slowly began to slip away from the mother country, England.

Police and Fireman have their own distinctive style which has also shifted and changed over the years, with the more informal style of modern dress for daily wear taking place over the more formal dress of years gone by.

Whether it be a casual salute to the fashion style of the day to denote a faction within the era, the tilt of the hat, a row of distinctive buttons, a badge of office or service being worn, it denotes the wearer is something more than just a single entity; that that person is one of many carrying out a service for the community or a member of a particular cult or group.

Fashion and uniforms have always been a component of air travel, highlighting the glamour and prestige of traveling with this airline or that. A gold lame uniform was worn by female stewards flying with Ansett and working with Business class Ansett passengers adding that little bit of panache to the journey.

Nurses have also had their day beginning with Florence Nightingale when it was necessary to be distinctive in the wards, while caring for men on the battlefields.

Whatever the reason, whether it be work or pleasure, community or cult, criminal or religion, school or a badge of office, the uniform, its inception and change is all a part of the kaleidoscope of Australian history and the slow but eventual birth of a country proud of its culture, origin and status in today’s world.


Author Criag Wilcox
Publisher NLA Publishing
ISBN 9780642278937
Distributor NLA Publishing
Released April 2017